A report looking into how Los Angeles County could repurpose its historic former hospital in Boyle Heights and the 12-acres of public land that surround it was released late last month, after a one-year delay due to COVID and three years of study and outreach meetings in surrounding neighborhoods. The LAC+USC Medical Center General Hospital & West Campus Feasibility Study provides a reuse framework that combines community priorities and uses, technical considerations, and county requirements.
On Thursday, a fifth and final outreach meeting on the General Hospital repurposing project will allow members of the community to comment on the study before the county moves on to accept requests for proposals (RFP) from potential developers.
Hosted via zoom on June 2, from 5 to 7 pm, the meeting will allow community members in real-time to discuss any issues and concerns they may have about this long-discussed project. Spanish interpretation will be provided.
“It’s important that this public building be given back to the community to become an asset that our community can truly benefit from,” said Rosa Soto, executive director of the LAC+USC Medical Center Foundation, which is in charge of the community engagement.
Soto said that the need for housing and services for the homeless was one of the most addressed topics by the community in the engagement meetings, and called the project “a critical opportunity’ to address homeleness.
In February, the County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Hilda Solís’ motion to support the RFP process for the project.
“This potential project can aid in our response to the housing shortage our region is experiencing by repurposing the General Hospital and West Campus into an affordable housing and mixed-use development,” Solís said in a statement released at that time. “We are one step closer to making that dream into reality with this motion.”
The repurposing of the General Hospital and the West Campus is part of Solís’ larger vision for a “healthy village” that includes the nearly completed Restorative Care Village, which will house 96 recuperative care beds and 64 crisis residential treatment beds, and a new childcare center on-site.
Heather Hays, associate director of the LAC+USC Medical Center Foundation, said that the county recognizes the importance of both maintaining a well functioning hospital and of providing critical services requested by the community.
“Our vision is really just to make sure that we can bring all those very important elements together into a plan that will really revitalize the campus and provide a whole range of community services,” Hays said. “And deliver on Solís vision for a campus that serves its community medically at the top tier level, provides a wide range of community services, and also provides opportunities for local business, for affordable housing, and for different services that the communities identified as their top priorities.”
The project is expected to also include the creation of open green areas, commercial retail space and workforce and economic development initiatives to create a healthy and sustainable environment.
In a response to a reporter’s question sent by email, Solís said the General Hospital repurposing could also be seen as a boost to the area’s economy.
“Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and LA’s Eastside have suffered from decades of underinvestment,” Solís wrote. “Redeveloping General Hospital and the West Campus area would help these underserved areas.”
“General Hospital has always represented care for our low-income communities, and it needs to be put back into productive use,” Solís added. “Our communities deserve investment that supports our local neighbors and does not lead to displacement or further gentrification.”
The General Hospital building opened in the early 1930’s and was originally constructed to accommodate more than 1,200 beds. The building closed due to damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and a new, modern medical center opened in 2010, with only 600 beds.
Opened in 2014, the Wellness Center on the first floor of the General Hospital offers free programs and services to the community –many provided by local nonprofits and some government agencies– and is seen as the first phase of building reuse.
The Wellness Center at General Hospital currently has a public fitness trail and picnic area leading to its entrance on the south side of the building.
A ‘beacon of hope’
Soto, who is also in charge of the Wellness Center, said the building has had a remarkable role in the lives of Angelenos for decades, calling it “a beacon of hope” for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.
She said that a big consideration moving forward will be preserving the Art Deco style building and its rich legacy and history.
Currently there is no estimated cost for the repurposing project or an estimated time of completion, but if the RFP process is completed later this year, developers may be able to begin construction as early as the summer of 2023.
The county expects funding will come from a combination of public and private investment – and the feasibility study provides some insight into those.
“I think now is the best time to see this project come to life and really happen,” said Soto, pointing to funding opportunities that weren’t available before.
“The general hospital building needs to continue to be a beacon of hope and access for the community,” she added.
Zoom Meeting Information
Thursday, June 2, 5 to 7 pm
Spanish interpretation will be provided.
Meeting ID: 829 3109 8337
To call in: +1 669 900 6833